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*This is the sequel to The Magic Pint that we published in March of 2023. Click on the title to read Part One. If you have any suggestions or comments for the writer, leave them in the comments on our social media pages, comment directly below the post, or send a message via blog@missionmilspouse.org

 

 

Callie left the McGowan’s a little bit tipsy from the second pint. The brightness from the afternoon sun contradicted the darkness she still felt in her heart. She steadied herself a bit as she crossed the street to her apartment building.

 

Everyone wanted her to move out of the apartment after Chris died; especially her family.

 

They thought she should start fresh and move back home. But she couldn’t. They had moved into the Hay Street apartment in downtown Fayetteville right after they were married in January of 2002. A friend of her dad owned the building, and they rented the two-bedroom apartment above a row of shops downtown for a bargain price.

 

Most of their Army friends thought they were crazy for living downtown.

 

Fayetteville was often called “Fayette Nam” due to the dangerous pockets of the small city. But She and Chris didn’t care. The apartment was old with original floors and tall ceilings. They got a great deal, and they could walk to a few places and get away from Fort Bragg on the weekends. She taught at Terry Sanford High School, so the location worked well for them.

Besides…. It was the last place they were together before he deployed.

Before he died.

 

There was no way she could move. Not now.

 

On the street level just below their apartment, there was a small grocery store called “Last Stop/First Stop”. Callie always smiled when she saw the sign because it was true. One of them was always running down there for something. Callie stopped there occasionally on her way upstairs.

Today she stopped and grabbed some coffee beans as she knew she would be needing more in the morning. The buzz from the Guinness was still working inside her veins, and she was fairly certain she would regret the second pint around 5 AM when it was time to get up for school.

As she was checking out, the front page of the local newspaper caught her eye. There was a photo of a line of Army tanks crossing the Kuwait border. The photo was not unusual as the Iraq war was in its second full year and showing no signs of stopping; but something about that picture didn’t seem right.

Callie picked it up and examined it more closely.

“What the hell?” Callie exclaimed loudly before she could stop herself. She forced herself to blink and clear her eyes, but she was still seeing the same headline:

 

“Ground Forces Invade Iraq Without UN Approval”

 

Quickly she checked the date; it said March 19, 2003. “Why is this paper from two years ago?” she asked the clerk without taking her eyes off the front page.

“What do you mean?” the clerk behind the counter asked, baffled by her question. “We just got that stack in this morning. Our troops invaded Iraq today,” he said while looking at her with concern

 

Callie felt nauseous and she was breaking out into a cold sweat; something was definitely not right.

 

She put the coffee beans and the paper on the counter to steady herself.

“Are you okay?” The clerk asked.

Callie looked up at him for the first time. He was about 25 year old with a sandwich in one hand and a coke in the other. He was staring at her like she had gone completely mad.

“What is today’s date?” She asked, a little afraid to hear the answer.

“March 19, 2003”, he replied putting down his sandwich. “Do you need some help? You don’t look okay.”

 

Callie was not okay. What could possibly be happening right now?

 

Under the scrutinizing stare of the clerk, Callie threw some bills down on the counter, grabbed the coffee beans and the newspaper and bolted out the door.

Her hands were shaking as she put the key into the lock of her apartment building. Callie stepped inside the stairwell and leaned against the door to catch her breath. She looked down at the newspaper again.

 

It still read……. “March 19, 2003.” 

 

She glanced to the mailboxes on the wall to her left. Through the little window she could see several envelopes in her box; 4B. Callie inspected her keychain for the mailbox key and her heart stopped.

The clear, plastic circle with the drop of Guinness from Dublin was no longer on her key chain. Panic spread throughout her chest as realized she must have dropped it on the way home, or maybe it fell off in the pub.

Her next thought stopped her cold.

If she could embrace this insanity and believe that it really was March 19, 2003, then she hadn’t been to Ireland with Chris yet, and she hadn’t been to the Guinness Factory so she couldn’t have gotten the souvineer. They didn’t take the trip until until May 2003, after his deployment to Afghanistan was up.

So technically, it should not have been on her key chain yet. Callie let her thoughts trail off as she found the tiny box key and moved to her mailbox.

Her hands were a little bit steadier as she unlocked the box and slid the envelopes out. Her heart was pounding she flipped through advertisements and official looking envelopes until she saw it.

 

It was from him. From Chris. 

 

Callie didn’t know how or why this was happening, but she bolted up the two flights of stairs to 4B, let herself in, and collapsed into the apartment.

The coffee beans, the mail, the newspaper, and her keys scattered all over the linoleum floor as Callie pushed the door shut. She leaned her back against the thick oak frame and slid to the floor. She held the letter in her hand and looked at through tear veiled eyes.

She took a deep breath and tore through the paper. She knew what is would say; she had already read it.

 

       Dear Callie,

       In case we are attacked while I am writing this……..I love you.  Thank you for loving me. You make me so happy and complete (Not in the cheesy Jerry Maguire way, but for real). 

 

Chris started every letter that way. Apparently there was a guy on their team that was hit by a mortar round in his tent while writing his girl back home. The half-finished letter was about tedious, day to day things and he hadn’t gotten to the sappy, love professing part yet. Every soldier in the Unit had heard the story and Chris always started with “the love” right away incase he was killed like his teammate.

 

      Things seem to get worse here every day and I struggle with how much we have actually changed things over here. I have seen good men disappear in an instant, and, sometimes I wonder if it is worth it. The soldiers we are training… do everything half assed, and I am just tired “Callaleen”.

 

Callie felt a fresh rush of tears as she read his Irish inspired nickname for her.

 

     The only thing keeping me going is that we have 6 weeks left in this shithole and after that we have our 2-week reintegration….and then…. Its Ireland Baby! 

      I am so pumped! Thanks for making all the arrangements. The first thing I am gonna do when we land is kiss the ground. Imagine me going to where all my relatives and ancestors came from. I can’t wait to see the towns, drink the beer and whisky , and of course…. listen to the music…”The Craic” as they call it.  I promise it will the best trip ever. 

     Well, I made I through the letter, and I am still alive (ha ha) so I will say it again, I love you- You are my world. Have a pint or two for me on the greatest day ever- St Paddy’s Day.

   Love Chris,

    P.S.- If you hit McGowen’s for a pint, tell that tall bartender thanks for me. We had good talk a few days before I shipped out. He made a bet with me. Tell him I will pay up when I see him again.

“That’s strange,” Callie thought.

 

She didn’t remember that P.S. line in the original letter. Slowly, she removed herself from the floor and made her way into the bedroom. It looked the same as the day he left, Callie couldn’t bring herself to change anything since he died.

She opened the closet to grab the blue photo box she kept on the top shelf of the closet. She kept all the letters and printed emails Chris had ever sent her. It had only been 5 months since his death, but she looked at those letters at least once a week. She kept it next to Chris’s jungle boots from Afghanistan.

He was wearing them when he died and his best friend,Spencer, brought them back to her after the overseas service.

 

But the blue photo box and the jungle boots were not on the shelf. Callie started to panic.

 

“What the hell was happening to her?

Could it really be possible that she was a back in 2003?  Was it possible that Chris was still alive? Callie sat down on the edge of the bed as she tried to process what was happening.. None of this made sense. Nothing was where it should be and she had the strangest feeling from her head to her toes.

No boots, no box of letters, an old letter appearing today in her mailbox, the newspaper from the day of the Iraq ground invasion, and the clerk who insisted it was March 19th, 2003.

And of course….no drop of Guiness souvineer from the best trip ever.

Callie sat down slowly on the bed and laid back as she put her hands over her face. When she walked into McGowen’s earlier today, it was March 18th 2005 and all she had were her memories.

 

And now? …..Did she still have Chris?

 

Callie bolted upright at the thought. If Chris was still alive, then maybe she had time to warn him not to get into that HUMVEE. Maybe she could stop what was going to happen to him.

She had exactly six months until September 18th, 2004. Six months to stop the greatest pain she had ever known.

First, she needed to go back to McGowans and find that bartender……

 

 

 

TO BE CONTINUED……. Stay tuned for The Magic Pint: Part Three!

 

 

 

Author

  • Kathleen Palmer

    Kathleen is an educator and project seeker from Texas. In her 25 years as an Army wife, Kathleen has taught and coached in six different states and Germany. Kathleen has a big heart for both Army families and soldiers having served as a Soldier for Life counselor in both Germany and Korea. Her favorite part of Army life is her acquired community of battle buddies! Kathleen loves words (both speaking and writing them) and has contributed to AWN, NMFA, The Fort Hood Sentinel, The Army Spouse Handbook, Inside Abu Ghraib, Memoirs of Two US Military Intelligence Officers, and The Army War College at Carlisle. Her favorite writing piece about being an Army wife is “The Lady in the Grey Suit” which was published in 2015 in Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors (Vol.3). You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, or on her website, Life Is Messy, Love Big. Just like Kathleen, the site is a WORK in Progress! She also currently serves as Mission: Milspouse Director of Content.

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